Online Forum: The 20th Anniversary of Komozi Woodard’s ‘A Nation Within A Nation’

April 1-5, 2019

Black Perspectivesthe award-winning blog of the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS), is hosting an online forum celebrating the 20-year anniversary of the publication of Komozi Woodard’s A Nation Within A Nation: Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) and Black Power Politics. Organized by Say Burgin, the roundtable uses the 20th anniversary of Woodard’s book as an opportunity to highlight commemorative, critical reflections on his book and its important contributions to Black Power history. The online forum begins on Monday, April 1st and concludes on Friday, April 5th. It will feature essays from Peter Blackmer, Ashley Farmer, Michael Simanga, James Smethurst, Jeanne Theoharis, Dara Walker, and Michael O. West. The forum will conclude with Say Burgin interviewing Komozi Woodard.

During the week of the online forum, Black Perspectives will publish new blog posts every day at 5:30AM EST. Please follow Black Perspectives (@BlkPerspectives) and AAIHS (@AAIHS) on Twitter; like AAIHS on Facebook; or subscribe to our blog for updates. By subscribing to Black Perspectives, each new post will automatically be delivered to your inbox during the week of the forum.

About the Author

Komozi Woodard is professor of American history at Sarah Lawrence College. His research interests include African American History, with an emphasis on politics, culture, the Black Freedom Movement, and women in the Black Revolt; U.S. Urban and Ethnic History, with an emphasis on public policy and persistent poverty, oral history, and the experience of anti-colonial movements. He is the author of A Nation Within a Nation: Amiri Baraka and Black Power Politics and reviews, chapters, and essays in journals, anthologies, and encyclopedia. He is the editor of The Black Power Movement, Part I: Amiri Baraka, From Black Arts to Black Radicalism with Randolph Boehm and Daniel Lewis; Freedom North: Black freedom struggles outside the South, 1940-1980 (2003) with Jeanne Theoharis; Groundwork : Local black freedom movements in America (2005) with Jeanne Theoharis; and Want to start a revolution? : Radical women in the Black freedom struggle (2009) with Dayo F. Gore and Jeanne Theoharis. He is a reviewer for American Council of Learned Societies, an adviser to the Algebra Project and the PBS documentaries, Eyes on the Prize II and America’s War on Poverty, and on the board of directors for the Urban History Association.

About the Organizer

Say Burgin is a historian of the 20th century US focusing on social movement and African American history. Originally from Iowa, she competed her BA (English and Women’s Studies) at St. Olaf College, and her MA (Race & Resistance) and PhD (History) at the University of Leeds, UK. In 2017, she joined the faculty of Dickinson College as Assistant Professor of History. Her publications have appeared in the Women’s History ReviewJournal of American StudiesJournal of International Women’s Studies The Nation, and elsewhere. Her first book – currently in-progress – examines the myth that Black Power oversaw the wholesale ejection of white individuals from the movement. Say co-created the educational website Rosa Parks’s Biography: A Resource for Teaching Rosa Parks. Follow her on Twitter @sayburgin.

About the Participants

Peter Blackmer is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Detroit Equity Action Lab at the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights at Wayne State University. He studies grassroots movements for civil rights, human rights, and political power in the 20th Century United States, particularly in the urban North. Originally from Syracuse, NY, Peter received his Ph.D. from the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is currently working on a book project on grassroots struggles for Black equality and empowerment in Harlem during the Civil Rights era from 1954-1964. Through a close examination of the political education and activism of grassroots organizers, the project analyzes how local people developed a collective radical consciousness and organized to confront and dismantle institutional racism in New York City. This work also explores how the interests and activities of poor and working-class Black and Puerto Rican residents of Harlem fueled the escalation of protest activity and demands for human rights and self-determination that pushed local and national civil rights organizations in new, more radical directions with the advent of the 1964 Harlem Rebellion. Peter is also the Lead Researcher for “The North: Civil Rights and Beyond in Urban America,” a national digital humanities project on Black freedom struggles in the urban north, based in Newark, NJ. This work has produced public programming, community classes, public school curricula, and an educational website on African American history in Newark and a forthcoming chapter on Detroit. This project has received support from Rutgers University-Newark, Washington University in St. Louis, Wayne State University, the National Parks Service, the Victoria Foundation, and the Newark Public Library.

Ashley D. Farmer is a historian of Black women’s history, intellectual history, and radical politics. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Departments of History and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas-Austin. She is the author of Remaking Black Power: How Black Women Transformed an Era (UNC Press, 2017) and co-editor of New Perspectives on the Black Intellectual Tradition.  Her scholarship has appeared in numerous venues including The Black Scholar and The Journal of African American History. She has also contributed to popular outlets like The IndependentThe Chronicle of Higher EducationPublic Books, and the History Channel.  She is also the Co-Editor of the Black Power Series with Ibram X. Kendi, published with NYU Press. Follow her on Twitter @drashleyfarmer.

James Smethurst is Professor and Graduate Program Director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is the author of The New Red Negro: The Literary Left and African American Poetry, 1930-1946 (1999), The Black Arts Movement: Literary Nationalism in the 1960s and 1970s (2005), which won the Organization of American Historians’ James A. Rawley Prize and was a 2005 Choice Outstanding Academic Title, and The African American Roots of Modernism: From Reconstruction to the Harlem Renaissance (2011). He also co-edited Left of the Color Line: Race, Radicalism and Twentieth-Century Literature of the United States (2003) with Bill V. Mullen, Radicalism in the South Since Reconstruction (2006) with Rachel Lee Rubin and Christopher Green, and SOS—Calling All Black People: A Black Arts Movement Reader (2014) with John Bracey and Sonia Sanchez. His primary research areas are African American literature, culture, and intellectual history from the late 19th to the late 20th centuries, with a particular emphasis on Black cultural and political radicalism. He is working on a history of the Black Arts Movement in the U.S. South.

Michael Simanga is an activist writer, multi-discipline artist, scholar and educator.  He came of age during the Civil Rights/Black Power Movement in his hometown Detroit.  As an activist he worked in the Congress of African People, the African Liberation Support Committee, the National Black Assembly, the National Black United Front, the anti-apartheid movement, and the labor movement. He currently teaches in the Department of African American Studies at Morehouse College and is on the doctoral faculty of the Union Institute and University where he also is director of the Martin Luther King Specialization.  His research interests are 20th century Black radical movements, Civil Rights, Black Power and Pan-Africanism, art and culture as expressions of identity, resistance and transformation. He writes and lectures on Black Power and Politics, African American and African Diaspora art, culture, politics and history, human rights and justice.  As an artist and cultural worker, he has produced more than 200 artistic projects and is the former Executive Director of the National Black Arts Festival. His books include No One Can be at Peace unless they have Freedom; Amiri Baraka and the Congress of African People and In the Shadow of the Son. He is also editor or co-editor of 44 on 44: forty-four African American Writers on the Election of Barack Obama; and Brilliant Fire! Amiri Baraka, Poetry, Plays and Politics for the People. Forthcoming books 2019-20 include: 400yrs the story of Black people in poems written from love; David Franklin: Black Power Entrepreneur; We Walk the Way of the New World: Essays on the Life and work of Haki Madhubuti (Don L. Lee).

Jeanne Theoharis is the author of numerous books and articles on the civil rights and Black Power movements, the politics of race and education, social welfare and civil rights in post-9/11 America. Her biography The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks (2013) won a 2014 NAACP Image Award, the Letitia Woods Brown Award from the Association of Black Women Historians, and was named one of the 25 Best Academic Titles of 2013 by Choice. Her newest book More Beautiful and Terrible History: The Uses and Misuses of Civil Rights History (2018) won the 2018 Brooklyn Public Library Literary Prize for Nonfiction. She is also the co-editor of Freedom North: Black freedom struggles outside the South, 1940-1980 (2003) with Komozi Woodard; the co-editor of Groundwork : Local black freedom movements in America (2005) with Komozi Woodard; and the co-editor of Want to start a revolution? : Radical women in the Black freedom struggle (2009) with Dayo F. Gore and Komozi Woodard. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, MSNBC, The Nation, The Atlantic, Slate, Salon, the Intercept, the Boston Review, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Dara Walker is the 2018-2019 postdoctoral fellow at the Pennsylvania State University’s George and Ann Richards Civil War Era Center. She holds a PhD in History from Rutgers University. Her research interests include African American history, urban history, 20th century U.S. history, public history, and the digital humanities. She is currently writing her book manuscript which examines the role of the high school organizing tradition in the development of Black radical politics of the Black Power era. Using oral histories and archival research, Dara’s work traces the personal experiences, revolutionary ideas, and political activism of Black Power activists who were “too young to vote.” Dara’s research has been funded by the Ford Foundation’s Dissertation Fellowship, the Walter P. Reuther Library’s Albert Shanker Fellowship for Research in Education, and Rutgers University. Follow her on Twitter @afroshedoc.

Michael O. West is professor of sociology and Africana studies at Binghamton University. His current research centers on the Black Power movement in global perspectives. He is the author of The Rise of an African Middle Class: Colonial Zimbabwe, 1890-1965 (2002). He is the co-editor of Out of One, Many Africas: Reconstructing the Study and Meaning of Africa with William G. Martin and From Toussaint to Tupac: The Black International Since the Age of Revolution with William G. Martin and Fanon Che Wilkins. He is currently working on a book manuscript entitled, Kwame Nkrumah and the Black Power Movement.

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